LAPORTE — The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has granted a five-year extension of the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone, an economic development incentive tool officials say is making a noticeable difference in the downtown.

The enterprise zone is governed by the Urban Enterprise Association, which keeps residents and businesses within the zone, along with the city, informed of any development activity and programs occurring inside the boundaries.

"Our UEA has done some really great things in the city, and we’re excited to keep that momentum moving forward," said Bert Cook, executive director of the Greater LaPorte Economic Development Corp. and UEA vice president.

Much of the enterprise zone in LaPorte encompasses the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

UEA successes include 15 downtown buildings having renovated storefronts in the past two years, with a half-dozen or so more planned in 2018, under a program covering 80 percent of the property owner’s cost, said Thaddeus Cutler, the city’s downtown director and UEA board member.

Cutler said the UEA also recently purchased a building at 518 Lincolnway to renovate and give away under certain restrictions to help spur new business growth downtown.

UEA dollars helped offset the cost of an extensive remodeling of a structure occupied a month ago by RQAW Corp., an architectural and engineering firm at Lincolnway and Michigan Avenue.

Help is also provided by UEA with the stipend paid to the director of the downtown farmer’s market.

"All of these projects wouldn’t be possible without the UEA and their funding," Cutler said.

UEA revenue is derived from the issuance of 100 percent property tax credits for 10 years on new investment. In return, companies pay 35 percent of the tax savings for reinvestment into the zone.

Urban enterprise zones here and elsewhere in the state will expire for good after 2022, though, because of a 20-year sunset under the legislation adopted 15 years ago, unless action is taken to allow them to carry on.

"I’m assuming that once these five years are up, I can almost guarantee we’ll push to get some more time out of it if we can," Cutler said.

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